After watching a collection of club-kid-altered Old Navy-esque basics at Skylight Clarkson, Telfar showgoers made a short trip up to the Garment District for the brand’s official after party. For those who could finesse their way inside, there was a fountain soda machine turned bar, attendees like Rose McGowan and others lounging on booths, as well as free sliders and mozzarella sticks on hand. All of it came courtesy of the brand’s ongoing sponsorship with White Castle, but beginning next year, that relationship will evolve into more of a partnership.
“We’ve actually been working together for three seasons,” Telfar Clemens told Complex days after the show and after party. “So far we’ve just been doing the after party, but now we are going to be moving the relationship forward a little bit. [Telfar] is going to be making the 95th anniversary White Castle uniform.” That project is slated to hit East Coast locations of the hamburger chain this May. And while it will no doubt conjure up some interesting design ideas, the ongoing relationship between the two brands is only one of many unlikely team-ups showcased at New York Fashion Week this season.
This week brands like Samsung, Aquafina, Lexus, White Castle, the Minions movie, Etihad Airlines, and even Pornhub got a bit of shine alongside the fashion brands that presented. And though automotive, travel, and beverage brands have a history of involvement with fashion weeks, the addition of an X-rated site, fast food chain, and animated children’s movie came as curious add-ons.
“We see Samsung as an aspirational lifestyle,” Zach Overton, the vice president and general manager of Samsung 837 said Tuesday night after the Kith presentation in the Samsung 837 space. That venue is the brand’s first ever flagship, but doesn’t offer any products for purchase. “We like to think of [the brand] as being at the center of culture, technology, and humanity, and this space is the physical manifestation of that.”
This week that programming included not only the Kithland show, where Ronnie Fieg debuted custom watch faces for the Samsung S3 Pioneer and the Samsung Gear S3 Classic to be sold at a later date, but the Gypsy Sport show and a pop-up shop for Kendall and Kylie Jenner’s brand. Those events were the latest in Samsung’s integration within the fashion industry, which has seen the company host the after party for the CFDA Awards, projects during New York Fashion Week: Men’s, and a series of speaker panels.
“These are true partnerships, so not only are we bringing an amazing space, but our understanding of technology in all the different ways that technology can be leveraged,” Overton said. And while there were issues as it pertained to the event efficiency at both Kith and Gypsy Sport (lines for entry were long, slow moving, and confusing, causing some to bail prior to being admitted) on the whole, the experience was truly an immersive one. At Kith, those with seats were gifted a Samsung tablet that came ready with links to the collection’s lookbook shot with the Samsung Galaxy S7.
At Hood By Air, Pornhub was the collaborator of choice. “They actually approached us a couple of weeks ago to start tossing around some ideas about a sponsorship,” Alex Klein, the marketing manager of Pornhub said. “Initially, we were just talking about having a few pieces in the show, and then it really got fleshed out into having a larger partnership and sponsorship.”
The full collaboration included a soundscape featuring audio of X-rated scenes, co-branded pieces on the runway, as well as a Hood By Air page on the Pornhub site. That page includes photos of the collaboration plus a playlist of pornographic content. Each clip comes watermarked with the brand’s name. Brand founder Shayne Oliver punched up the runway show itself using Vaseline on his model’s faces to evoke how porn actors look after the “money shot.”
“I think it was just being visible alongside a brand that shares a lot with us in an ideological sense,” Klein said when asked about what “success” looked like for a Pornhub-HBA partnership. According to her, the company assisted in footing the bill for the production of the show and both companies helped the other with visibility. “We get lots of offers to collaborate with different people and brands and a lot of it doesn’t fit for us. When we do find that perfect match, it catches fire. This show speaks for itself. Everyone is talking about it now.” Klein also said the company hopes to do more in the future, having launched Pornhub Apparel a year ago.
The Minions collaboration between unisex label Baja East and Universal Pictures seems more unexpected on paper. But at their show, held on Friday night in a sweaty parking lot in the Financial District, it made a bit more sense. Banana print motifs—a reference to the animated characters’ favorite food—were integrated seamlessly into designer Scott Studenberg and John Targon’s signature drape-y, billowing style. The Minions appearance on a T-shirt felt like a small footnote that didn’t detract or distract from the rest of the line.
Larger labels seeking to align themselves with on-brand ideas from credible sources and smaller ones hoping to finance their shows seems to be the most prominent reason for the unusual partnerships. For Clemens, the support is invaluable. “[White Castle] understands what it means to be an artist and that’s the important thing,” he says. “A lot of what we do takes money to do it, which is kind of hard to achieve when you’re a young designer. They really help with the resources in terms of just making dreams come true.” That said, Clemens says that even without a sponsor, the Telfar show would go on—though not as “professionally” and as elaborately produced as he was able to do last week.
Back at the Telfar after party, revelers who could squeeze through the packed aisles made their way down to the basement, where an alternate DJ was spinning. The dance floor there had nothing for ventilation but a box fan, but a mix of dancehall beats and throwback vogue beats, dripping with audio from legendary commentator Jay Pendavis, pumped through the speakers. It’s likely that for those who attended, mentions of White Castle will now evoke memories of dancing late into the night with cups of vodka-spiked Hi-C and handfuls of chicken rings. That kind of positive association is what these brands are now paying big bucks for.